Happy news

Your Above the Law editors: Joe Patrice, Elie Mystal, Staci Zaretsky, and David Lat

February is supposed to be full of hearts and love and chocolate candy, but this year, it was mostly filled with snow — and that’s why our Valentine’s Day party, which was originally supposed to be on February 13, had to be rescheduled.

That said, thanks a lot to everyone who was willing to brave the cold and came out on Wednesday night to attend the Above the Law Valentine’s Day party. This year’s festivities were extremely well-attended (the bar was packed), and the entire crowd enjoyed all of the specialty drinks that were served. Thanks to our sponsor, the Business Law Center on WestlawNext™ from Thomson Reuters, for making such a great evening possible.

If you weren’t able to make it out, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the pictures from a night that was full of fun and fabulosity…

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This glass is half-full, right?

It depends. Your view of the direction of the job market for summer and entry-level associates will depend upon which metrics you focus on. That seems to be the bottom line of the latest findings from the good folks over at the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).

The overall outlook seems to be… muddled. Some indicators are up a little; some indicators are down a little. Things appear a bit flat — which is not that different from last year.

But I’m finding (or trying to find) reasons for optimism. Hear me out….

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David Boies: just one great lawyer among many at Boies Schiller.

What comes to mind at the mention of Boies, Schiller & Flexner? Perhaps the legendary named partners — David Boies, Jonathan Schiller, and Donald Flexner — or perhaps the legendary bonuses, which last year went as high as $300,000.

But there’s much more to the firm than that. Even though BSF is most famous for its litigation work, it has a sizable and well-regarded corporate practice, for example. And even though its biggest presence is in the state of New York, with offices in Albany, Armonk, and New York City, the firm has several other outposts — including a growing and high-powered presence in Washington, D.C.

Boies Schiller has been adding some impressive new talent to its D.C. outpost. Last week, the firm welcomed a leading litigatrix. Let’s learn more about her, shall we?

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Some large law firms, when announcing year-end associate bonuses, also announce base salaries for the new year. In Biglaw, the salary scale hasn’t budged since January 2007, when Simpson Thacher announced the $160K scale (providing for base salaries ranging from $160,000 for first-year associates to $280,000 for eighth-year associates).

You could view this as a compensation cut, since we have had some inflation (even if not high inflation) since 2007. According to the inflation calculator of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $160,000 in 2013, the latest year available, had the same buying power as $142,407 in 2007. Of course, law school tuition has climbed quite a bit since 2007 — so even for the lucky souls who land Biglaw jobs, the value proposition of a law degree isn’t as appealing today as it was back in 2007. You’re paying more for a degree that gets you less.

What’s the solution? Work for a firm that will pay you more than $160,000 as a starting salary, of course! Let’s say hello to the newest member of the $160K-Plus Club….

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Back in 2011, we complained about the complexity of Vinson & Elkins’s compensation system, which involved a deferred compensation arrangement. The next year, the firm fixed it.

Last year, when ATL readers rated Texas law firms, Vinson & Elkins came in #5 out of 6 firms in terms of associate satisfaction with compensation. But maybe the firm has fixed that as well?

Based on the reports we’ve heard so far, associates at V&E are in fact V.E. — “Very Elated” — about their bonuses….

(Please note the very important UPDATE added to the end of this post — and reflected in our tinkering with the title. Some people are less than thrilled….)

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Litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel is known for many things, perhaps the most important of which is making money hand over fist. In the latest Am Law 100 rankings, the firm grew its gross revenue by 17.8 percent, posting revenue per lawyer of about $1.2 million and profits per partner of $4.4 million. That’s certainly a selling point — but perhaps what the firm is best-known for is its quirkiness. Quinn Emanuel is a firm that does things a little differently than any of the competition.

You may recall that starting in 2012, the firm did away with Biglaw’s tried and true method of summer associate recruiting — interview, check pulse, make offer — in favor of “fun, freewheeling ‘get to know you’ parties.” The firm apparently likes attorneys with social skills. Quinn Emanuel has thrown formal workplace fashion to the wayside and actively encourages its associates to dress casually because it “improves [their] creativity.” It’s no surprise that QE made our list of the 12 top rated firms last year.

This is a firm that likes to have fun, and say what you will about its most recent bonuses, but its fearless leaders want its associates to be happy. We think that Quinn Emanuel’s latest initiative may keep the firm at the top of our rankings for years to come….

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345 West 13th Street

Meet Michael Graffagna, who’s one impressive MoFo… partner. The Harvard Law School graduate, admitted to practice in New York, California, and Japan, heads up the project finance practice at Morrison & Foerster.

Graffagna is now resident in the firm’s Tokyo office. So he and his wife, Midori Graffagna, recently sold their Manhattan pied-à-terre. And oh what a pied-à-terre it was — larger than most Manhattanites’ primary residences.

How large are we talking? How much did the Graffagnas get for it? And which celebrity lives upstairs?

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Wooooo, law school!

For some people, law school is like College 2.0. They figure that if they have to spend three years hunkering down and learning law, they should at least be using all of their free time to hone their drinking skills to perfection. Why not, right?

As we know, law students of every stripe — from those hailing from “rank not published” institutions to those covered entirely in Ivy — are competitive as hell. If they’re going to be drinking a lot, they might as well try to turn that hobby into a sport.

It turns out that one law school’s students are so good at drinking that they just won a nationwide competition. Which T14 law school are we talking about? You might be surprised….

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Let’s play a game of law firm word association. What words come to mind when I say Skadden Arps?

Prestigious? Yes.

Profitable? Definitely.

Sweatshop? Perhaps; some sources say the hours can be “long and unpredictable.”

Funky?

Yes, you heard me: funky….

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William Tell

On a Wednesday evening in January, William Tell, a 33-year-old 3L at USC Gould School of Law, was sitting in the backyard of the L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills, a few blocks away from his apartment, sipping a scotch and munching on a bowl of pasta. At the moment, Tell is the only law student in America who goes home to the woman on the cover of Cosmopolitan — he’s engaged to Lauren Conrad, the reality TV star-turned-lifestyle entrepreneur who is regarded by many, including Martha Stewart, as being something like the next Martha Stewart.

More than a decade before his stint as a figure of tabloid fascination, Tell’s first act was as a guitarist in early ’00s pop-rock band Something Corporate, a band that was playing stadiums, arenas, and late night television shows by the time he was 22.

Clean-cut and wearing a simple grey sweater and skateboarding shoes, Tell laughs a lot but speaks with a hint of careful distance. He makes clear that he guards his privacy and would not have consented to an interview with a publication whose focus was his romantic life. But I wanted to ask Tell mostly about his unique experience as a law student, so I connected with him on LinkedIn, emailed him to explain myself, and now here we are….

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